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Is Addiction a Choice?

  • Yes, addiction is a disease.

    Votes: 7 26.9%
  • No, a person can control his/her addictions.

    Votes: 19 73.1%

  • Total voters
    26
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Discussion Starter #1
When I was at the gym on Monday evening, ABCNews John Stossel had an interesting report dealing with addiction (drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and food). The basic argument in the report: Is addiction a choice? Can people control their behaviors, or is addiction a disease characterized by poor impulse control? I believe that each individual has the free will to act as he or she chooses. I think that part of the problem with addiction is the desire to blame someone or something else for your problems rather than confront your own mistakes.

Here is the article from ABC News:

‘I Can’t Help Myself’
Is Addiction a Matter of Choice?

By John Stossel

April 21 — Watching TV, you'd think the whole country is addicted to something: drugs, food, gambling — even sex or shopping.

"The United States has elevated addiction to a national icon. It's our symbol, it's our excuse," says Stanton Peele, author of The Diseasing of America.
There are conflicting views about addiction and popular treatments. So, we talked with researchers, psychologists and "addicts" and asked them: Is addiction a choice?

Publicity about addiction suggests it is a disease so powerful that addicts no longer have free will. Lawyers have already used this "addict-is-helpless" argument to win billions from tobacco companies.

Blaming others for our "addictions" is popular today.

In Canada, some lawyers are suing the government, saying it is responsible for getting people addicted to video slot machines.

Jean Brochu says he was unable to resist the slot machines — that he was "sick." He says the government made him sick, and his sickness led him to embezzle $50,000. Now, he's suing the government to restore his dignity and pay his therapy bills.

Psychologist Jeff Schaler, author of Addiction Is a Choice, argues that people have more control over their behavior than they think.

"Addiction is a behavior and all behaviors are choices," Schaler says. "What's next, are we going to blame fast-food restaurants for the foods that they sell based on the marketing, because the person got addicted to hamburgers and french fries?"

Well, yes, actually. Two weeks after he said that some children sued McDonald's, claiming the fast-food chain made them obese. They lost the first round in court, but they're trying again.


Uncontrollable Impulses?

"Impulse control disorder" is the excuse Rosemary Heinen's lawyer used to explain Heinen's shopping. Heinen was a corporate manager at Starbucks who embezzled $3.7 million, which she then used to buy 32 cars, diamonds, gold, Rolex watches, three grand pianos, and hundreds of Barbie dolls.

In court a psychiatrist testified Heinen was unable to obey the law, and shouldn't be given the seven-year prison sentence she was facing. The judge, however, did put Heinen behind bars, sentencing her to 48 months.

The "helplessly addicted" defense seemed to work better for the Canadian gambler. The judge gave Brochu probation and told him to see a psychologist. His mother paid back the $50,000 he stole.

Now Brochu and his lawyer are seeking $700 million on behalf of all addicted gamblers in Quebec, claiming the government is responsible for getting them addicted, too.


Calling Addiction a Disease

Many scientists say addicts have literally lost control, and that they suffer from a disease.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse calls drug addiction a "disease that will waste your brain." This is our government's official policy. And government-funded researchers, like Stephen Dewey of Brookhaven National Labs, tend to agree.

They say their studies of addiction in monkeys and rats show that addiction is a brain disease.

"Addiction is a disease that's characterized by a loss of control," says Dewey.

Dewey takes his message to schools, showing kids brain scans that he says prove his point. He tells students that addiction causes chemical changes that hijack your brain.


Genetic Destiny?

Dewey and other researchers say our genes predispose some of us to addiction and loss of control.

Researchers at Harvard University believe they may have found one of those genes in the zebrafish.

When researcher Tristan Darland put cocaine on a pad and stuck it on one side of a fish tank, fish liked the feeling they got so much that they hung around the area, even after the cocaine was removed.

Then Darland bred a family of fish that had one gene altered. These fish resisted the lure of the cocaine.

Darland says this shows that addiction is largely genetic. "These fish don't know anything about peer pressure. They either respond or they don't respond to the drug," he says.

At the Medical College of Wisconsin, Dr. Robert Risinger scans the brains of human addicts while they watch a video of people getting high on crack. It's what they call a "craving" video. He then shows them a hard-core sex film.

The brain scans show the addicts get more excited by the craving videos. The drugs become more powerful than sex — because addiction's a disease that changes your brain, says Dewey.

I asked Dewey if he was suggesting that drug users don't have free will.

"That's correct," he said. "They actually lose their free will. It becomes so overwhelming."

But if they don't have free will, how come so many people successfully quit?


Is the Disease Message Harmful?

Addiction expert Sally Satel acknowledges drug addiction and withdrawal is "certainly a very intense biological process." But she is one of many experts who say the addiction-as-brain-disease theory is harmful to addicts — and wrong.

She also thinks it's unhelpful to take away the stigma associated with drug abuse. "Why would you want to take the stigma away?" she asks. "I can't think of anything more worthwhile to stigmatize."

"People need to get rid of the idea that addiction is caused by anything other than themselves," says James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces, a book about his experience as an addict.

Frey says he took just about every drug, from alcohol to crack. Yet Frey says he wasn't powerless. He scoffs at Dewey's claim that addicts' brains compel them to keep taking drugs.

Many doctors agree, saying you can still choose not to take drugs, even if they do cause changes in your brain.

"You can look at brains all day," Satel says. "They can be lit up like Christmas trees. But unless a person behaves in a certain way, we wouldn't call them an addict."


Environment and Choice

In fact, some researchers cite experiments that they say prove that addiction is a matter of choice.

In Canada, researchers gave rats held in two different environments a choice between morphine and water. The rats in cages chose morphine; the rats held in a nicer environment preferred the water.

Whether you get addicted also depends on how you're treated. At Wake Forest University, male monkeys lived together for three months, and established a pecking order.

The monkeys who'd been bullied by the "boss monkeys" banged a lever to get as much cocaine as they could. But the dominant monkeys, just by virtue of being dominant, had less interest in the drug.

"It's just like the human world," says Dr. Michael Nader, who conducted the experiment.

"Individuals that have no control in their job show a greater propensity for substance abuse than those that have control," Nader says.

These comparisons suggest that addiction is a choice — not a disease that takes away free will.

The message from the treatment industry is that drug users need professional help to quit. What they seldom say is that people are quitting bad habits all the time without professional help.

In fact, some studies suggest most addicts who recover do so without professional help.

For example, during the Vietnam War, thousands of soldiers became addicted to heroin.

The government tracked hundreds of soldiers for three years after they returned home. They found 88 percent of those addicted to narcotics in Vietnam no longer were.


Quitting Is the Rule, Not the Exception

Even tobacco companies now admit nicotine is addictive, but does that mean it really denies smokers' freedom?

You seldom hear about those people who just quit … on their own. No one's saying it's easy to quit. But it may surprise you that quitting is not the exception, it's the rule. Most people who've used heroin or cocaine have quit. Since 60 percent of smokers have quit — that's 50 million Americans — it seems obvious that people do have free will.

But the drug research establishment insists most addicts are enslaved, that they don't have free will.

Dewey says just because 50 million people have quit smoking doesn't mean that an addiction to smoking isn't a disease.

Yes, it does, says Schaler. Schaler also says the use of the word "disease" is important, particularly in terms of the money "addicts" are spending to get help. "If you say it's a choice not a disease, well then insurance companies may not reimburse for that. … If you say it's a choice, then the tobacco companies may not be slammed for millions of dollars."


Treatment Trap?

Some experts say the treatment industry is taking advantage of people in desperate situations.

"We're selling nicotine patches, we're selling the Betty Ford Center. We tell people, 'You can never get over an addiction on your own. You have to come to us and buy something to get over an addiction.' It's not true, and it's dangerous to tell them that," says Peele.

Former addict Frey agrees. His parents did pay for him to go to the expensive Hazeldon Treatment Center, but Frey says he didn't buy into the messages the center offered in counseling and therapy.

"I stopped because I have my own 12-step program and the first 11 steps don't mean [expletive] and the 12th is don't do it. And I didn't do it."

Frey and other former addicts say choosing is what it takes, making that decision.

"You can't tell people, 'This is all you're fault and there's nothing you can do about it,' " says Frey. "You have to tell them, 'This is all your fault and you can make it all better if you want to.' "

Frey says he still gets drunk. Now he just does it differently. "I get drunk on walking my dogs, I get drunk on, you know, kissing my wife. I get drunk on a good book. Getting drunk is just doing something that feels good."
 

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there is such a thing as willpower. and every human being has it, although in varying degrees. blaming a physiological chemical addiction for not being able to rise above succumbing to it is like saying that since you've been sexually abused as a child, you too have no choice but to sexually abuse your own child.

we live in an age of blame-ism. it's always someone else's fault. i killed someone because my daddy used to beat me so now i can plead insanity. i am depressed and a bane to society because i grew up with alcohohlic parents, blah, blah, blah.

everything is choice. and people should take responsibility for the ones they make. so no...if you're an addict, of any kind...you chose to be one.
 

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Whenever a post starts out "I was at the gym"... well, you know.

The idea that addicts are "helpless" is utter stupidity. Can't quit smoking? You shouldn't have started. Life is entirely making your own decisions... but nowadays, people always have excuses for being dumb fucks.
 

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i agree 'Diva/Leena...if a person gets addicted to smoking it's their own damn fault for being an idiot to start in the first place
 

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ofcourse it is a choice- people make the choice on how to deal with their emotional problems and unfortunately some choose many types of 'drugs' of choice to not relly deal with pain etc....
 

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I think it's more like this
instead of "a person can control his addictions" it would be more like "a person has to control his addictions". I believe it mostly depends on a person's will power.
I've got lots of will power *cough* :)
 

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Diosa Contable
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That's an interesting topic. I think I lean more into obssesion than addiction though ;) lol - but anyway, I think we can control our addictions to some degree.

I think you can become addicted to a drug and then your body craves it, not just your mind, so you are addicted and you can not control it (not without medical help).

But the thing is, it is your choice to try that drug in the first place. And I think those claims of being missinformed are only true in 1 out of every million cases. People know things are wrong and have bad effects, they just believe "that happens to other people" and that they won't become drunks, or drug addicts, or that "trying it just once won't hurt", and next thing they know they've spend money they don't have and stolen from their family because they can't live without.

Most things in live are a choice. Like that voice over in "Trainspotting": Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family...
 

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some people are very open to addictions. I think when you know that you should not start certain things. that's why I never drink any alcohol.

I disagree with the everything is a choice though some people always make the wrong decisions. like me but I always take that as my own responsibility!
 

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Some peope have addictive personalities that mean they are biologically prone to addictive behaviour; be it drugs, sex, gambling, cleaning, posting on message boards ;) or whatever.

Addiction is not a choice - those are mutually exlusive terms, so I dont really understand where the article is going, except that some of the people interviewed obviously have agendas.

I'm sure some people use addictions as justifications for terrible things, but a little empathy is necessary in discussions like this.
 

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The question is stupid in theory...Addiction is not always a choice...it is sometimes an innocent result of using something. Its a complicated matter.

I think people who use drugs or smoke cigarettes excessively pretty much know that they will become addicted...therefore it is a choice...but once they become addicted it is not simple enough to say "stop using"

On the other hand, addiction to medication can be totally a misunderstanding of the power of pain killers. A few months ago, I was given a prescription to Percodan...after a few weeks, I realized that I could not get thru the day without it...I immediately threw them in the toilet...but many people don't recognize the danger before its too late...in that instance...does one assume its a choice? Like I said, its complicated...it is not a simple yes or no question, it depends on the situation.
 

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I've never bought into the theory that people just can't stop smoking... My Grandmother smoked for 50 years, and obviously she started before anyone knew smoking was bad for you.

She just quit cold turkey one day... and never smoked again. So... whenever I hear someone say that just "can't quit"... I don't buy it.

Unfortunately, smoking still took her life 5 years later due to Emphyzema.
 

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ofcourse, saying 'just stop' is not always going to work but at the end of the day its a choice- even if you are prone to alcoholism by genetics etc..its still your choice to drink...I know that it runs in my family and at one point my tolerance got high and i started enjoying it and i made a conscious choice to not drink as much when i go out...i could have also taken the other road and continued drinking because i liked it and my tolerance wea building....

BK- you showed why its a choice because you saw what it was doing, yes, others are not as insightful blah but at the end of the day a drug addict has made a choice and the decision to get clean is also a choice- a very difficult one but nonetheless a choice.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Leena,
Going to the gym is the only time I get to watch any tv! My father, like your grandmother, quit smoking cold turkey after 40 years because he wanted to control that addictive behavior.

DeucaDiva,
Thanks for coining the term--blame-ism. I'll have to remember that.

Gallofa,
Believing that we are somehow invicible does lead to addiction, but what about the choice to continue? Is that obsession or is it impulse behavior?

Irma,
Do you believe that some people are open to addictions because they may have inherited that behavior from their parents?

Jon,
Can we completely blame biology for a person's addictive behaviors? At some point, doesn't a person have to take responsibility for their actions? I agree that empathy must be given to those who are suffering with addictive problems, but at some point, these people must take control of their own behavior.

BK4Ever,
I'm glad that you were able to stop using Percodan. That took real courage. I hope that you didn't suffer too much from withdrawal. Anyway, I disagree that sometimes addictions arise out of misunderstanding or misinformation. While you did not initially understand that Percodan was addictive, you did come to realize that you were addicted to it and stopped using it. Again, that shows you had enough control over yourself to make a choice.

Thanks for your replies everyone. There is some great insight here.
 

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You can't control them as such, it's a gradual process, anyone who can just stop something is not addicted, sometimes the word 'addiction' is overused. If you can just stop something, you can't be addicted.
 

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Personally, I believe that if you can "control" it, it is not an addiction.
 

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I believe addictions in most instances can be contolled. But there are other instances where babies are born with inherent addictions.
 

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I agree with JDIH, "addiction" is horribly overused. The words are inherently opposite of each other.

addiction: compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; also: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful

compulsion: an irresistable impulse

When stripped down to the real meaning, beyond the bullshit, JonBcn is correct in taking the biological stance.
 

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TennisHack said:
I agree with JDIH, "addiction" is horribly overused. The words are inherently opposite of each other.

addiction: compulsive need fo and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; also: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful

compulsion: an irresistable impulse

When stripped down to the real meaning, beyond the bullshit, JonBcn is correct in taking the biological stance.

i agree. i dont place a heroin/alcohol/crack addiction in the same category as a gambling/shopping "addiction". ive had a lot of experience w/addictions... and trying to put a stop to a drug addiction is much more difficult than stopping a gambling addiction. the drug becomes a part of your body... you actually become physically dependent on the drug. people can die while going through withdrawal... which is why its recommended that a person doesnt stop heroin cold turkey.
ive never heard of a person dying from gambling withdrawal. its just an easy excuse/escape to blame others... and an easy way to make money by suing.
 

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empiremaker03 said:
i agree 'Diva/Leena...if a person gets addicted to smoking it's their own damn fault for being an idiot to start in the first place
so you think that you're an idiot if you start smoking :rolleyes: It's your own choice to start smoking or not so don't judge people for making their own choice by calling them idiots.

I think willpower is an individual thing.Some people don't have a lot of willpower so the addiction gets stronger then their will.I don't think you can blame them for that.And it also depends on which addiction you're talking about.It's easier to stop smoking than to stop taking heroine.It also depends on the time.there's a big difference when you want to stop smoking after a few weeks or when you have been smoking for years imo.
 

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"Now Brochu and his lawyer are seeking $700 million on behalf of all addicted gamblers in Quebec, claiming the government is responsible for getting them addicted, too."
I'm sure if they won they would have not complained.
People smoke because they want to start. Nobody forces them to smoke. I tried smoking and it is not my thing, I did not find it addictive, if I did, it woud be my damn fault, not the government.
People smoke and get money for it. bullshit I think, let them die from cancer, afterall it IS THEIR CHOICE. People take advantage of the government because they can. I wonder what will be next, lawsuits against getting addicted to watching movies. pisses me off.
It's like us going to court because we are 'addicted' to tennis. so I should sue Venus Williams, lol
I think North Americans are spoiled. Here in Canada they need to experience life in a third world country, and then I would see if they would complain about some things they do.
fuck, it's life, deal with it!

P.S. Did u know a while ago a guy in Asia died because he played video games for 36 hours straight or something.
 
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